IAAPA (and maybe the industry) Getting Stale....

Not sure how many of you have been attending IAAPA during the recent past, but the show floor has been stale for quite some time.

It appears that many of the major ride suppliers are “cutting back” in an attempt to manage their expenses. Call it the economy, call it a new digital era, call it whatever you want, but one of the best parts of IAAPA was to see new rides in action, and even take a spin and experience some of the newest and latest attraction developments. I remember as recent as five years ago, Zamperla owning the show floor with multiple rides running. It felt like they took up half the floor. Now, they have a bunch of TV videos set up showing off their ride portfolio.

Not trying to make any grandiose statement, just making an observation. IAAPA has certainly changed in the past 10 years and I miss walking onto the floor and seeing all of the rides spinning. Maybe it is because vendors are cutting back on R&D because there really hasn’t been nothing really new, innovative, or cutting edge at the show in the past several years.

I still can’t believe there is such a big market for inflatables!

Than again, not too long ago the Laser Tag girls were the highlight of the show!

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging,
Jeff's avatar

I haven't gone in a couple of years. I wanted to go this year, but mostly because it's a convenient time to catch up with friends in the industry, all in one place at the same time. As the ride manufacturers consolidated and/or failed in the middle part of the last decade, things became a lot less interesting for ride enthusiasts.

Personally I think there's a lot of interesting work going on around "boring" stuff like ticketing, virtual queueing, wireless payment systems, stuff like that.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

CoasterDemon's avatar

I'm pretty excited about the new trains by S&S, Premier and Gerstlauer. And of course, the Rocky Mountain work... the GCI and Gravity Group works... I'm excited by lots of that stuff.

Jeff's avatar

And to the point of the first post, you didn't have to be at IAAPA for that excitement.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

rollergator's avatar

^But none of that stuff is "show-able". Reminds me a little of trying out the GravityKraft trains at HW. We could see how they looked and felt when stationary, but to get a feeling of how they'd perform, I had to wait until getting a couple laps on Wooden Warrior...

The inflatables are super-cheap to transport and display, and to me that's a major reason they seem to take a disproportionate share of the IAAPA show.

Raven-Phile's avatar

I always liked the haunted attractions section of IAAPA. Come Halloween time, you can go to a park and see the stuff that you saw the fall/winter before in action.

Jeff's avatar

I'm doubtful that many companies buy a ride because they did it at IAAPA. I used to think that, but honestly the industry is so small that awareness is not likely an issue, and if you are interested, you can just as well travel to an existing installation. If Zamperla has scaled back, I mean, they can just ask you to drop by Coney Island!

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

...not to mention they've shorten the show which used to extend into Saturdays. Seems like most of these manufacturers are scaling back expenses just like every other normal company not in this industry, however these things are cyclical and I fully expect when the economy shows signs of recovery that the IAAPA floor will be riding high once again; virtual rides are not the same, people don't go to parks to ride simulators - they go for the wind-in-your-hair reality of it, but it's nice to take a break on those fake virtual rides once in a while for the air-conditioning :)

Although, salespeople who work for Iwerks type of companies will tell you otherwise !

Last edited by Rye.D.Ziner,
Jeff's avatar

Are they still around? I met Stan Lee at their booth one year.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Vater's avatar

What was Stan Lee doing there?

Raven-Phile's avatar

Talking to some creepy guy that had an obsession with superhero "body parts".

The tradeshow is not shortened. It used to be Wednesday to Saturday. Now its Tuesday to Friday, which is fine for us who get another full weekend to play.

Jeff's avatar

Iwerks had some Marvel tie in with some ride or something. I think it was Iwerks.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

The other thing that has changed is IAAPA's business model. The costs for everyone associated with the show have escalated dramatically: the cost of booth space, the cost of the associated dings (like that one 15-amp electrical outlet or the half-gallon wastebasket), and the cost of exhibitor registration have all gone up dramatically. Likewise, the cost for registrants has also more than doubled in the past few years. Add to that, there are other shows going on around the world that the exhibitors are expected to attend, plus much of what the exhibitors actually do at the show can be handled more easily and for a lot less expense over the Internet...

Fortunately for IAAPA, there are a whole bunch of inflatables manufacturers and importers who have a lot of cheap blow-up stuff that doesn't show well unless it is fully inflated, and that takes an ever increasing amount of floor space. I didn't go to the show this year, but last year the inflatables took up more than half of the show floor. Gave the building a nice ripe smell, too.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Jerry's avatar

^Agreed - when my company exhibits in Vegas and in NY at the Javitts - We pay about $15,000 for Dreyage, setup, electrical, carpet and "the 1/2 gallon" wastebasket emptying service for a 2 (yes that's right) a 2 day show.

Mind you our booth isn't small - it's 10 feet by 20 feet.

How many coaster trains can you get in a 10 x 20 booth - not many.... It just isn't cost effective to do a show anymore.

Jeff's avatar

It was my understanding that Vegas was much worse, and that's why they decided to land the show in Orlando for the long term. I know even conferences are getting a little tired of Vegas in terms of cost, which is odd because that's a town that can use whatever work comes its way.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Here is a good example. In Orlando, you can park to the East of the N/S hall, and wheel in whatever. We could take the booth in on 4 trips, and then use a handcart and bring in cases of water, the coffee machine, brochures, etc. We could reload daily,, no questions. In Vegas, the signage clearly stated that nothing comes into the doors via carrier (handcart, dolly, nothing on wheels). They enforced that.

As for the booth, We have used the same floodlites for years, yet in Vegas, they suddenly 'didn't meet code', and the guys stood at the booth and began to suggest the correct lites we could rent from them. I simply removed the lites and packed them up, much to their dismay.

The Vegas show was a success to many vendors. However, the pitfalls are that many older companies are from 'back east', like PTC, Gold Medal, Intamin, Premier Rides, Bobs Space Racers, GCI, most of the plush companies, etc. They secured smaller exhibit space, which caused the term 'we are cutting back', still heard today.

Fast forward to 2011, even Zamperala brought lots of tv's with rides, and no rides. The only coaster cars, S&S had some, PTC. and GCI. B&M or Premier did not bring any, and they still sold a few coasters each. Will they bring cars next year? Doubtful.

More people liked Vegas than will admit in public. The Wynn hosted a great Whats New Theatre, and was chosen as the IAAPA hotel over the Hilton. Vegas is like Orlando in that you can spend $49 for a room, or spend $549. Your call. You can't really do that in Dallas or Atlanta and stay near the show. One issues is that the IAAPA membership has some vocal 'hoidy-toidies' who just can't grasp the 24hrs of drinking, gaming, and adult fun. Some are insistant on bringing every family member, and are appalled when the kids get bored. Honestly, this past Orlando trip, I visited 11 parks. Not sure what I will do next year.

As for the floor, you have about 1000-1100 companies filling 7000 exhibit slots. Those damn inflatables do take up lots of space, and they only appeal to a handful of attendees. They were doing business up to the final hour of the show, somehow. I would rather tell companies 'bring 2', and bring the floor tighter, but I am not in charge. Outside is a bust, with very few major rides available to ride, and more inflatables. You be the judge.

Pricing used to be $25 for a day pass, all the games, food, rides, etc. Now its like $59, and it may not be worth it as you read the previous comments. I saw some day pass people turned away from the Disney Legends seminar this year. I actually felt bad as non members cannot do the sessions.

My opinion, vegas is good every so many years to shake things up, but if IAAPA is going to make Orlando home, then the offices, storage, etc should all be reloacted as well.

Vegas may be a relatively inexpensive location as a convention attendee, however as an exhibitor, it is one of the more, if not most expensive places to exhibit at due to the strong union presence. As AJ said, if you needed to bring anything into the convention center beyond what you can carry, you were forced to use the convention center labor pool to do the work.

Perhaps the Zamperlas of the industry learned that you don't need to necessarily need to have rides spinning on the show floor to sell rides.

My only point is that in this recent shift, IAAPA has lost some of its magic, at least from an attendee standpoint. It used to be so cool riding the escalators onto the floor for the first time each year and seeing an amazing sight in front of you.

Now you are lucky to still get a free 4oz cup of coke at the coke booth!

Jeff's avatar

The straight non-show conference business isn't much better, in terms of union influence and expense. Involved with various technology conferences, there is a great deal of conflict about doing Vegas. On one hand, it's a lot closer to the tech-heavy west coast, but on the other hand, it's pissing off people trying to not price attendees out of the market. At least for some of these smaller conferences, they can head into the Mountain Time and find some deals here and there, but those options lack the entertainment that comes with Vegas.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I think this is more a result of the economy than anything else. Trade shows have seen a decrease in attendance over the past several years which means a vendor isn't getting as much bang for their buck. Then, add on the higher shipping prices over the past few years and a vendor is more inclined to scale back their tradeshow displays.

I'm pretty heavily involved in a tradeshow in Orlando every year and our vendors were known for bringing in pretty large, heavy displays. We've seen that decrease significantly over the past four years.

Considering that Orando is at least the American center of the amusement park industry (if not the international capital) it just makes sense to hold IAAPA there...even if it means obligatory travel from the west coast.

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